Each campus of the Indian Institutes of Technology (IIT) has a Guest House, essentially, an on-campus hotel in which they house visitors. I have stayed in the Guest House of IIT Delhi, Kanpur, and Kharagpur. The guest rooms are basic, but each is nice in its own way. The dining room, at least in those I’ve visited so far, is set with large tables for 8-10 people and the food is served buffet style or family style. Thus, guests sit and eat together. As a result, I’ve met many fascinating people. Read on!
A retired mechanical engineer had returned, after many years in the US, to the IIT where he was once a professor. He was spending a year there while he wrote a textbook on his specialty. From him I learned about the many changes in the IIT system in recent decades, viewed with the perspective of someone who has seen IIT in its early years and with extensive experience in the US.
A professor of chemistry, visiting from another IIT, described to me the tremendous challenge India is facing as it tries to build 6 new IIT campuses in the next few years. Adding six new campuses to the seven existing IITs seems difficult at best. Where will they find qualified faculty, with 700 vacancies already in the IIT system nationwide? Who will they choose as director of each new IIT; it is crucial, in his view, that the new directors be drawn from the faculty of the existing IITs, because they know the system and the IIT culture. This professor has spent several years teaching in the US, in Ohio and Texas, and has taught using my father’s chemistry textbook. Small world!
A professor from IISc (indeed, from the building next to mine!), visiting as part of a selection committee. When IISc, or an IIT, wants to hire a new professor, the hiring department conducts a search and an initial round of interviews. When they choose a candidate (or perhaps candidates), they assemble a committee that includes faculty from other departments and subject-area experts from faculty around the country. The candidate is called for a second interview, and the selection committee convenes to grill the candidate before making its recommendation. He, too, was recently retired, and had many observations about IISc from his four decades of experience.
A pair of European researchers, hopping around India as part of a large EU-funded project to measure and project India’s future potential in information technology, with a primary focus on innovation. The two men, clearly of Indian origin themselves, described their ambitious project to collect hard data about innovation, technology, education, and industry throughout India, preparing both academic research papers and extensive dissemination to industry and to policy makers in both India and Europe. A side goal of the project is to identify opportunities for future Indo-European cooperation in information technology.
Oh, and the food is tasty, too.
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